Today’s Question: With the Spot Healing Brush tool and Content Aware technology in Photoshop, is it safe to say the Clone Stamp is outdated and no longer needed?
Tim’s Quick Answer: While the Clone Stamp tool is certainly less important now that we have more powerful and sophisticated image cleanup tools in Photoshop, there are still situations where the Clone Stamp tool is incredibly useful. In particular, I still employ the Clone Stamp tool in situations where I need to carefully maintain texture detail when performing cleanup work on a photo.
More Detail: To be sure, the technology behind some of the more recent image cleanup tools and features in Photoshop is very impressive. In particular, I would say that the Content Aware technology provides some very impressive results in terms of blending the pixels you’re using to remove a blemish into the surrounding areas of the photo.
However, sometimes those blending capabilities can create more problems than they solve, or at least lead to less than ideal cleanup results.
In particular, the Content Aware technology and the general blending employed with the Healing Brush and Spot Healing Brush tools (among others) can lead to harmful effects for fine textures in a photo. This is commonly seen as a degree of ghosting and texture duplication in areas where you’ve applied a cleanup. In other words, your cleanup work won’t always blend seamlessly into the rest of the photo.
The Clone Stamp tool, by contrast, doesn’t perform any blending into surrounding areas. That can obviously be a challenge in terms of having the brush strokes of your cleanup work be too obvious. But a combination of multiple tools can provide a great solution.
When texture needs to be maintained as part of image cleanup work, I generally start with the Clone Stamp tool. After cleaning up an area as best I can with the Clone Stamp, the texture will have been maintained but the blending won’t necessarily be adequate. I can then using one of the “blending” tools, such as the Spot Healing Brush tool with the Content Aware option selected, in order to blend away areas along the edges of my Clone Stamp brush strokes that reveal an obvious indication of my work.
By combining the absence of blending with the Clone Stamp tool with the Content Aware feature of the Spot Healing Brush tool, I can often achieve results that are superior to what could be accomplished with either one of these tools alone.